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Pakistan in midst of digital census, ‘unprecedented’ change in data policies

Pakistan in midst of digital census, ‘unprecedented’ change in data policies

Officials with Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority are boasting of a new service intended to put people in charge of their biometric data.

NADRA, as the authority is more commonly known, now offers a service call Ijazat Aap Ki decentralizes citizen data, at least to some extent. People will be able to give their consent – or refuse it – before a transaction requiring their Pakistani ID card, for example.

The government is calling the move, making personal information just like any other precious personal possession, unprecedented. For the government, according to officials, it means the creation of a “digital consent regime.”

Verification transactions now require that a six-digit code be sent to a mobile phone registered to a citizen. Sharing the code is a means of authentication and will be a person’s agreement for a third party to get verification of their ID number.

People will have to update NADRA when they change their phone numbers.

The same agency is promoting what it says is Pakistan’s first digital census, the deepest and broadest collection of personal information most people will ever experience. The digital census is conducted by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), with hardware and software support from NADRA.

At least 121,000 so-called enumerators are crisscrossing the rugged country for the monthlong harvesting period of the census. Regrettably, 86,000 police and “thousands” of military personnel will travel with the enumerators in an effort to prevent violence to the government workers.

Those people will use apps on Android devices that validate collected data. The results of their work are expected April 20.

Past allegations of miscounting and underrepresentation were motivation to update how the census was conducted, according to a report on Pakistan’s system by the News Agency of Nigeria.

This post was updated at 9:39am Eastern on March 4, 2023 to clarify that PBS is the agency responsible for the digital census.

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